North: Injured police still off sick after riots

More than 20 police officers are still on sick leave after the ferocious rioting in Belfast earlier this year, it was revealed tonight.

More than 20 police officers are still on sick leave after the ferocious rioting in Belfast earlier this year, it was revealed tonight.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde disclosed two thirds of them were injured when loyalist mobs plunged the city into chaos in September.

Officers were attacked with blast and petrol bombs, as well as live rounds, after an Orange Order march was controversially re-routed.

The rest have still to return to work following republican street violence that surrounded a disputed Twelfth of July parade through Ardoyne, north Belfast.

Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist representative on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he was shocked by the severity of injuries that kept them from their duties.

But he added: "It's a miracle that even more weren't hurt given the sustained rioting from both republicans and loyalists."

The violence surrounding the marching season was the most intense in the North for years.

Nearly 100 officers were hurt as Belfast and surrounding towns were engulfed by several nights of street disorder.

The trouble flared over a bitterly contested decision to force Orangemen involved in the annual Whiterock march away from nationalist homes in the west of the city.

Loyalist paramilitary gunmen came onto the streets at the height of the disturbances.

Police spent £3m (€4.4m) dealing with the rioting that saw 150 live rounds fired at officers.

More than 1,000 petrol bombs and 167 blast bombs were also thrown at security lines.

With loyalists blaming police for provoking the riots, relationships remain seriously damaged.

Some shops on the Shankill Road, the heartland of Protestant west Belfast, still refuse to serve officers.

But earlier in the summer it was republicans who went on the rampage, injuring another 100 police men and women.

Officers were attacked as they pulled out of the flashpoint Ardoyne shopfronts after the July 12 Orange parade.

Baton rounds were fired in a bid to drive back the mobs.

The continued impact of the rioting emerged in a briefing Sir Hugh gave to the Policing Board.

He said: "I can confirm that there are still a total of 21 officers on sick leave.

"Seven officers as a result of disturbances on July 12 and 14 officers as a result of the Whiterock disturbances."

Joe Byrne, an SDLP representative on the authority, hit out at the extra strain the rioting has placed on police resources.

He said: "Sometimes people only focus on the financial costs and ignore the human cost of injuries to officers.

"That also has an impact on the complement of officers available for normal duties.

"Given that quite often some district commanders are operating under tight budgets and human resources any officers needlessly out of duty has a knock on effect."

Although sickness levels within the force have fallen, police said nearly 110,000 working days were lost due to illness in 2004.

During the same period 1,210 attacks on officers related to the security situation in the North were recorded.

But from 2001/02, when officers each averaged nearly 24 days off on sick leave, the figure dropped to just under 15 days last year.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman said: "Attendance levels are a key organisational issue for the police service.

"We have a managing attendance policy which we plan to revise to ensure it's fit for purpose and to further deliver increased attendance."

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.